The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things……

Call me odd. ¬†No seriously, call me Odd ūüôā HI!. ¬†Whenever i see clams or mussels I immediately start saying to myself the words¬†from the narrative poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” written by Lewis Carroll which is more popularly known from Alice In Wonderland Through the Looking Glass. ¬†Now I know that the walrus ate all the oysters but hey they are both bivalve mollusks so there is a sort of wonky little connection there. ¬†At least to me.

I’ve made mussels a lot for Kyle and myself. ¬†Sometimes I simply keep it traditional with a bottle of white wine, garlic, lemon and shallots and other times I mix it into a red sauce to have with pasta but I always have enjoyed the process of cooking mussels. ¬†Going to the fish monger or store to pick out ones that are alive, tapping the shells to make sure they close, ¬†even the whole process of soaking them to get any sand out and debearding them is fun for me. image000005
Shoot I even enjoy shucking an oyster or two if I can manage to not stab myself in the palm and bleed everywhere. ¬†There’s just something about eating them that just feels down right “living by the sea” to me. ¬†You don’t really need much in the way of utensils because they come with built in spoons (the shells). ¬†You can do it family style with just an empty bowl in the middle of the table to toss in your empty shells..And if you’re odd and peculiar like me you can re-enact famous Civil War battles with your food. ¬†Or maybe a scene or two from Game of Thrones. ¬†Yes. ¬†I play with my food. ¬†I don’t care.

We have a lot of places here in St. Louis to get seafood. ¬†There is Bob’s Seafood Market which is like the mecca of seafood and the place to go if you want sashimi grade salmon from the waters of Scotland and beautiful fat lobsters. ¬†There’s the Seafood Supermarket just down the street which is nestled in the heart of probably an area best called the China District and it has all sorts of oddities that would make any culinary fan geek out. ¬†And then of course the majority of our chain grocery stores have a rather limited selection of clams, mussels and scallops. image000002
If I’m feeling froggy I’ll make the drive to the county *shivers-i die inside when i cross the city limits and have to go to the county* to check out what Bob’s has in stock or what’s possibly still flopping on ice at the Seafood supermarket, but nine times out of ten depending on how fat my checking account is I “settle” for whats on sale at the neighborhood store. This weekend it was mussels and littleneck clams. ¬†I’ve never had littleneck clams ever that I can recall so I decided to pick some up, not knowing what I was going to make and went on my way. ¬†It wasn’t until the following day that I found myself in the Latin area of St. Louis picking up some chorizo that I pondered mixing the two. ¬†So….Off to Google I go with the fervor of an anti-Trump protester and searched for something that might peak my interest. ¬†I finally found a recipe in the archives of Food Network and decided to take a go at it. ¬†I did make some modifications to the recipe as I didn’t have harissa on hand and I used two different types of mullusks. ¬†I mean I’m sure the original recipe is good but why not modify to suit what you have on stock and in hand. ¬†I’ll post the link to the original recipe below if you really want to do it the way the Food Network stars do it.

It’s all pretty simple and only really took about 25 minutes or so to put it all together. ¬†And it was a one pot dish which always works for me considering whenever I cook it somehow always ends up with it being a 2-3 dishwasher load..How? I have no idea…but I’m pretty sure there are greater mysteries out there to solve, like how NO ONE EVER knew that Clark Kent was Superman. ¬†Man who knew that glasses could be the ultimate disguise. ¬†Aaaaaanyways sorry I side track a lot ^.^

In a dutch oven or heavy duty stock pot you are going to want to take 3 tablespoons of butter sweat out 1 medium onion chopped over medium heat. ¬†I act omitted the butter because I totally didn’t even read the entire recipe before starting so I used olive oil instead.image000009 ¬†Once your onions are translucent you’re going to adjust the heat to medium high and add ¬†your chorizo (either bulk ground or in casings *removed of course*) and minced garlic and add to the onions and cook just until the chorizo doesn’t look raw. ¬†This might be a little confusing considering that chorizo when cooked gives off a rather substantial amount of grease and because of the seasons which include things like paprika, cayenne pepper and in some instances even chili powder its hard to tell when it goes from being raw to not as raw. ¬†The recipe said it takes about 5 minutes or so and considering you do additional cook time after this stage I put my faith and any potential future gastrointestinal trauma in the hands of the Food Network Gods. ¬†You’ll want to stir every so often to break up till it resembles a sloppy joe texture. ¬†Again I know I’m so descriptive but that’s what it looked like. ¬†It looked like spicy sloppy joe mix! ¬†image000007

After you’ve reached sloppy joe consistency¬†reduce the heat back down to medium and add ¬†your red pepper flakes and if you choose to use it harissa or in my instance sambal sauce. ¬†Cook until fragrant and then add your dry white wine. ¬†The addition of the alcohol will help deglaze the bottom of the pan which incorporates all those little baked on brown bits. ¬†Those brown bits are flavor and flavor per Alton Brown is essential in acquiring..Good Eats (don’t sue me!). ¬†Allow the wine to bubble for a minute or two to cook out the alcohol and while you wait, pour yourself a glass and enjoy! I don’t cook with expensive wine but I do cook with wine I enjoy drinking. ¬†Add your chicken or vegetable stock (your choice) and bring back up to a simmer. ¬†While this is happening we want to focus on our little bivalve lovelies.

What exactly is a bivalve mollusk? ¬†Bivalve mollusks such as clams, oysters, mussels etc are soft bodied invertebrates that make their home in a two part hinged shell which is tightly held closed by a pair of insanely strong adductor muscles. Heh, mussels have muscles….LOL! ¬†image000008These little body builders primarily live a sedentary lifestyle like so many corporate office desk jockies and obtain their nutrition by filtering water and sediment through their gills to strain out all the tasty noms that might wander by. ¬†If you’ve never eaten a bivalve you more then likely have worn them, especially if you are in to wearing your Great Great Aunt Mildred’s wedding dress while playing Call of Duty. ¬†What? ¬†Huh? ¬†Why the buttons you daft boy/girl. ¬†Until the plastic industry hit in the 1940’s & 1950’s they were the primary material used in button manufactoring *the more you know! ¬†again please dont sue me!). ¬†Because of how they feed there is the potential that there is sand or some sort of grit inside the shell so prior to cooking its always best to clean the outside of the shells as well as let them sit in fresh water for about 20 minutes or so prior to cooking to allow them to push out any salt er and sand that might be hanging out inside like a squatter or nagging in-law. Also this will allow you to check to make sure none of your little sea critters kicked the bucket between time of purchase and moment of consumption. image000004¬†If you notice the front door open give it a little tap. ¬†If the mollusk is alive it will slowly close the door like so many John Hughes slow clap Pretty In Pink moments. ¬†If they dont “clam up” then toss them, they have more then likely gone to the great ocean in the sky. ¬†I wouldn’t risk eating a potentially dead clam or mussel due to the fact that um..eww gross!

After you’ve checked all your mussels/clams and have drained them in a collander and shaken out any excess water and grit gently dump them into the dutch oven and place a lid on them and put on the timer for 3-4 minutes. ¬†Clams will only open once they are fully cooked, ¬†mussels can be finicky and stay closed even if cooked. ¬†Rule of thumb used to be to toss these out prior to eating but you can remove them and gently pry them open and if no offense odor assaults your sensitive olfactory¬†receptors have at it. ¬†Any unopen clams though dispose of instead of risking it. ¬†Serve it up with ample amounts of bread to sop up the beautiful spicy broth and enjoy. ¬†Leave the utensils in the drawer and use the shells to shovel the chorizo and onions and meaty morsels into your mouth. ¬†Don’t stand on formality and at the end of the meal if you are positive that your dining guest wont stab you with a shell just drink down the broth as you stare back at the onslaught of carnage you made to those tiny little denizens of the sea. ¬†Its amazing as leftovers with a gentle reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes…Sooooooo good omg!

So enjoy something new. ¬†Get out there and experiment with flavors you aren’t sure will go together. ¬†What’s the worse that can happen? ¬†You end up going to White Castles for a Crave case….*shrugs*.

 

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MANGIA

Spicy Mussels (Or clams!) with Chorizo

1 medium onion chopped

3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)

4 cloves garlic minced

10 oz chorizo

1 tblsp harissa (or garlic chili sambal)

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4 c dry white wine

1 1/2 c chicken/vegetable stock

2-3 lbs cleaned and debearded clam or mussels

lots of french bread for soaking up the goodness

Recipe Credit given to: Food Network Spicy Mussels with Chorizo

 

 

 

That girl is on fire..fire..fiiiiire

No i swear I’m not channeling Alicia Keys or Katniss Everdeen, though given today is Election day I really did feel like it was going to be a Hunger Games kind of day but that’s politico talk and this is a place of happiness and joy and kittens from time to time. ¬†My kitchen however; well on Sunday that place was probably as close to Hell as I have gotten in a while cooking wise. ¬†Why? ¬†Harissa..

What is harissa? ¬†Besides the living embodiment of Satan? ¬†It’s a spicy and rather aromatic chili paste which has roots in North African and Middle Eastern cooking and can be found on many a menu along side lovely dishes as babaganoush, hummus, chutneys, lamb kofta, beef kofta, shwarma, etc. ¬†It’s a versatile paste which can be used to any chili or stew as a flavor enhancer or even as a dipping sauce for chicken and bread. ¬†But man can it ever be spicy.

This weekend I got to try my hands and making it to pair it along side a Moroccan themed dinner I was having for some friends. ¬†Roasted lamb with glass herbs that had been sous vide for 30+ hours, babaganoush, hummus, morrocan stew, couscous, naan & lavish bread. ¬†It was quite a spread but I wanted to try something that could both compliment the lamb as well as possibly enhance it and of course me being me, the veritable unique snowflake that I am, I wanted to stay away from the normal traditional sauces that included mint, rosemary or yogurt. ¬†So I ventured forth into Hell. ¬†And like every good explorer I made sure to come well armed and prepared. ¬†I wore goggles…And my Deadpool hat because well..Deadpool.

image000007¬†The ingredients for this harissa weren’t to difficult to obtain. ¬†In fact you can pretty much find all of them in your ethnic aisle at your local grocery store. ¬†And if not I’m sure that any international grocery store will carry them. ¬† ¬†One suggestion would be to make sure you have gloves. ¬†I didn’t wear any and got a rather wicked capsaicin burn on my left hand from playing with the rehydrated peppers. ¬†And for the love of all that is Effie in the Hunger Game DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE OR YOUR BITS..YOU WILL HATE LIFE AND ALL THAT ARE AROUND YOU. ¬†If you do happen to touch your bits um, well…..Yeah I’m sorry.

 

So the ingredients are simple and as follows. ¬†Dried chili arbol peppers, cumin (ground or whole your choice), caraway seeds (ground or whole), sea salt, lemon, garlic, honey & olive oil. ¬†See? ¬†Nothing to fancy or expensive. It is however time consuming. ¬†You don’t think ti would be but it probably took me roughly an hour plus dealing with the peppers themselves. ¬†Sadistic bastards I hate you so so so so much >.< ¬†t(o.to). ¬†I’ll list all the ingredients and measurements at the bottom of the post. ¬†image000005

The first thing you will want to do is make sure you really do have appropriate safety equipment because working with these peppers can cause potential breathing issues. ¬†Weather permitting keep a window open and a fan going to help draw out the fumes once you start working hands on with the peppers. ¬†Also make sure you have tissue nearby in case you start sneezing a lot. ¬†I do and my nose runs so I enlist in the assistance of my husband to act as my scrub nurse and help me out so I don’t run the risk of touching my face and doing my re-enactment of Elphaba from The Wizard of Oz and scream that my face was melting. In a large sauce pan you will want to take two cups of dried chili arbol peppers. ¬† No I’m not kidding, two cups of these little red seemingly innocuous peppers. ¬†Cover with tap water and bring to a boil on your stove and allow to boil for 10 minutes to help soften the peppers and re-hydrate. ¬†While this is happening you can prepare the rest of your ingredients which is to measure out your honey, olive oil, chop your garlic and get your lemon ready to go. ¬†Also get a colander and a blender handy. ¬†image000006

Once your peppers have softened you will want to dump them in colander and start running water over them. ¬†This is where you will want to put on your disposable gloves because for the next hour or so you’ll be slicing these bad boys up and washing the seeds out of them as well as the ribs and pith. ¬†This will help eliminate some of the intensity that inherently lives in peppers. ¬†The burning sensation you get from peppers is caused by capsaicin which is a colorless, odorless, oily chemical found in peppers. ¬†This chemical binds itself to certain sensory neurons and transmits the feeling of being burned even though there is no actual physical burning going on. ¬†The majority of this chemical resides in the pith/ribs (white interior part of the pepper) so simply removing the seeds will not eliminate the devil in your mouth. ¬†You have to take care of the insides as well.

Once you’ve sneezed, coughed, had to blow your nose about a good 5-6 times and then successfully de-seeded/veined your peppers you can now start building your Hellmouth sauce. ¬†As you can see in the picture below, I was not happy at this point. ¬†NOT AT ALL >.< but I am a determined committed chef and I wanted to see this through because I actually do enjoy spicy food. ¬†image000001

So its really simple after this part. ¬†You simply toss your ingredients into the food processor and mix till its a consistency you like. ¬†I roughly chopped my peppers first and then slowly incorporated the rest and came out with a lovely smooth paste which to me is more appealing to my taste buds. ¬†This can be paired with probably pretty much any protein or if you are adventurous, add this to your chip and salsa rotation at your next get-together. ¬†Just don’t invite me. ¬† Wait..no invite me because I wanna see if anyone cries ^.^

 

 

 

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Poor Dan.  He said he liked spicy!

Enjoy!

Harissa Dipping Sauce

  • Makes roughly 1 cup
  • 2 cups dried chili arbol (try subbing out for different peppers depending on your mood or if you truly do hate your dinner guests!
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp caraway, ground
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt to taste
  1. boil the peppers for 10 minutes or until soft, drain into colander
  2. slice each pepper (or skip a few if you want to make it spicer) and remove all seeds under running water
  3. grind the chilis in a food processor mince by hand if you truly are that much of a culinary masochist until it resembles a thick paste.
  4. Mix remaining ingredients, adding more oil, water or honey to get the consistency you prefer (i added more honey to assist in muting the heat….it didnt work)